Where to use: Best choice for walls with many imperfections. Use on ceilings and bedroom, dining-room, and living-room walls. Do not use in the kitchen or bathrooms.
Touch-ups and scrubbability: Flat or matte finishes are easy to touch up but hard to clean. Premium flat paint, such as Benjamin Moore Regal Matte Finish or California Paints Super-Scrub Matte Finish, has better washability.
Where to use: This low-sheen finish is a great choice for living-room or bedroom walls. Do not use in high-traffic areas, like hallways, because the delicate finish mars easily.
Touch-ups and scrubbability: Eggshell has a washable finish that can be easily touched up.
Where to use: With a silky, pearl-like sheen, it's a good choice for woodwork as well as walls in the family room, children's rooms, laundry room, kitchen, and bathrooms.
Touch-ups and scrubbability: Satin has a warm finish that's scrubbable. More difficult to touch up because any difference in sheen will be apparent.
Where to use: Semigloss is a popular choice for trim and moldings, and is also ideal for kitchen and bathroom walls because it is more resistant to humidity and withstands stains, chipping, and scuffing.
Touch-ups and scrubbability: Durable and easy to clean, it's the most scrubbable sheen for walls. However, semigloss is more difficult to touch up because the difference in sheen may show up more easily.
Where to use: Gloss is rarely used on walls because it shows imperfections like a mirror does. It is typically used on woodwork, trim, moldings, and works well only for surfaces that are truly smooth.
Touch-ups and scrubbability: It's the most durable finish and the easiest to clean, yet is the most difficult to touch up because the difference in sheen may show up more easily.
2 of 2Wendell T. Webber
Choosing the Right Paint Color
Bring it home. Don't make a decision based on how a color looks in the store. Take the card home, cut out the chip you like, and stick it on the wall to see it in your room's lighting. Glidden Paint (available at Home Depot) offers peel-and-stick color chips that work like Post-its, safely sticking to walls.
Audition a color. The best way to choose a color is to try out a sample. Invest in a quart and apply the color to a two-by-two-foot piece of foam board (available at paint centers and art-supply stores). Position the panel in several parts of the room at different times of the day to gauge the changing light. Farrow & Ball (farrow-ball.com), a British manufacturer of traditional paints available in the United States, sells $6.50 pots of paint that cover about 10 square feet, which will let you try out a color without buying a full quart. Devine Color paint (devinecolor.com) offers two-ounce paint pouches for color sampling.
Make it match (no extra charge). You can have paint custom mixed to match a piece of fabric, carpeting, or wallpaper at any Ace Hardware, Home Depot, or Lowe's store. The sample must be a flat item that is of uniform color and is at least 1/2 inch square.
Consult a computer. In one of Home Depot's Color Solution Centers, you can use interactive software to "virtually" paint a model room so you can see how different colors will look. Lowe's has kiosks in its Signature Colors Design Centers, where you can experiment with more than a thousand colors from six designer palettes. For an even better sense of how a color will look, both Glidden and Lowe's sell CD-ROMs that let you input digital images of your own room. (Or go to lowes.com or homedepot.com to use the free software application.)
Narrow it down. If you're overwhelmed by the thousands of colors typically offered by big paint companies, try a boutique line, such as Farrow & Ball or Devine Color. They both offer a limited range of beautiful colors, almost all of which will look good on your walls.